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New look of higher learning
GSU opened librarys new addition Sunday at noon
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Special to the Herald

    For more than three decades, the Zach S. Henderson Library has been the hub of academic life at Georgia Southern University.
    Since the summer of 2004, the library has also been the focus of an extensive expansion and renovation that will help it keep up with the needs of the University’s growing student body.
    The first phase of the $22.7 million project — an 89,000-square-foot addition to the east side of the original building — has been completed and opened its doors to the public at noon on Sunday.
    “We are extremely pleased to finally be able to make this new facility available to our patrons,” said W. Bede Mitchell, the dean of the Henderson Library. “It whets our appetite for the completion of the entire project in 2008. Georgia Southern University will have one of the finest, state-of-the-art library facilities in the southeast.”
    Georgia Southern College had only 4,000 students when the Henderson Library was constructed in 1975. Since then, the institution has earned university status and watched the size of its student body increase by more than 400 percent.
    Occupying 134,000 square feet in its original incarnation, the Henderson Library began to face significant space issues when Georgia Southern’s enrollment approached 14,000 in the mid-1990s.
    In June 2001, the Board of Regents approved the sale of bonds to fund a project that would renovate the existing building and construct two new sections that would add a total of 101,000 square feet to the facility.
    The project began in June 2004 with the demolition of the nearby Blue Building. A little more than two years later, the addition to the east side of the library is ready for use. The entrance is highlighted by a striking three-story glass atrium and a virtual waterfall.
    Once inside the addition, library patrons will find wireless access and laptops that can be borrowed for use within the building; two classrooms that contain a total of 60 computers; and a multipurpose room with seating for up to 50 people.
    The addition is also the home of a unique automated retrieval collection (ARC) system that is capable of storing 800,000 items in 5,848 separate bins that are stacked 45 feet in the air.
    Storage space will be at a premium during the second and final phase of the Henderson Library expansion and renovation project, which is expected to begin in November 2006.
    During this phase, the original building will be vacated for asbestos removal and then completely renovated. The facelift will include the removal of virtually all of the non-load bearing walls on the first, second and third floors. Also, most of the windows in the original building will be converted into floor-to-ceiling windows that mirror the design of the new additions.
    Since the addition to the east side of the library is smaller than the original building, the amount of seating and storage space will be reduced during the renovation process, but Mitchell and his staff are prepared for this logistical challenge.
    “While one of the library’s essential roles is to meet individual and group study needs, there is study space and there are computers elsewhere on and off campus,” he said. “Our collections, however, are unique. Many of our information resources are available online, but many others are not, so we decided to keep as many materials as possible in open stacks as opposed to remote storage.
    To further help preserve space in the addition for book stacks, Building 805 on Forest Drive was converted into a small branch library that houses government documents and the law collection. Also, the Collection and Resource Services Department was relocated to Building 803 on Fair Road.
    According to Mitchell, the addition’s open stacks contain  80,000 volumes, including the most recently published books, the books that circulate most frequently, and periodicals published since 1990. Volumes that can’t be accommodated in stacks will be stored in the ARC and the warehouse at Gentilly Square.
    The second phase of the  expansion and renovation project will include the construction of a four-story addition on the west side of the original building. Covering 12,000 square feet, this addition will feature seating on the first, second and third floors, and a balcony on the fourth floor.
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